Liberty, Utility, Empire & Will

 

Liberty leading the people

The 19th Century in Europe witnessed not only  a conflation between positivism, evolution, and progress, but also the development of liberalism and utilitarianism. Whereas Jeremy Bentham sought ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’, where happiness was defined in terms of the greatest pleasure, John Stuart Mill sought to reconcile utilitarian ‘majoritarianism’ with individual liberty.

As 19th Century thought progressed, ideas from previous eras formed complex associations with many of the overriding interests of the period but within a background of European colonial expansion and empire builidng. Human progress was not thought to be evenly distributed amongst all populations, and the idea of different ‘races’ assumed a significant element in 19th Century thought. The attempt to provide a scientific basis for theories of racial superiority may be understood an extension of a more general ‘positivism’. Whereas conservative thinkers simply accept the cultivation of preference and prejudice as the natural extensions of taste, others sought to provide a scientific, ‘positive’ ground for their prejudices. Key among such thinkers was Alfred de Gobineau.

Slides …

 

see next page for whiteboard notes re. these slides …